The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 19 and 20

The Harry Potter Reread would just like to say that dinosaurs are great, but dragons are greatest, even if they do share certain similarities. The reread is glad we can all agree on this. (Even if we don’t.)

We’re going to witness the great hat for a Quidditch match ever and finally reunite with a dear friend. It’s chapters 19 and 20 of The Order of the Phoenix—The Lion and the Serpent, and Hagrid’s Tale.

Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.

Chapter 19—The Lion and the Serpent

Summary

Harry is thrilled with all they’re doing to stop Umbridge, and they end up keeping the DA meetings irregular—they have to accommodate three Quidditch teams and it’s harder to notice anything off about their comings and goings when it doesn’t always occur at the same time. Hermione creates special Galleons that will put the date of each meeting on them when Harry changes it. He points out that this is a little like the Death Eater scars, and Hermione admits that’s where she got the idea. They end up postponing a few meetings in the lead up to the match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, with McGonagall forgoing homework assignments the week of the game. Harry is handling the Slytherin jeers with grace and snark, but Ron is panicking (which is bad because he tends to mess up mid-game when he makes mistakes already). Harry tries to encourage him the morning of the match while Ron dithers. He admits that a spectacular save he made in practice the other day was really an accident.

Luna comes by wearing a great big lion head on her own head that roars quite convincingly, telling them that she’s decided to support Gryffindor in this match. Before they head down to the pitch, Hermione kisses Ron on the cheek and tells Harry not to let Ron see what the Slytherins badges say. Harry notes them as they pass by—they read: Weasley is Our King. In the locker room, they find out that Crabbe and Goyle are the new Slytherin Beaters. They get to pitch and start the game, and the Slytherins are singing a song about how terrible Ron is, and how he’ll always let them score, which is why they’re all chanting Weasley is our king. This proves devastating to Ron, who keeps letting them score, but Harry catches the Snitch anyway (getting a Bludger in the back for his trouble) and Gryffindor wins.

Ron rushes from the pitch before he can hear anymore jeers. Malfoy starts really laying into the twins and Harry, going on about the lyrics to his song about Ron, and how he’d wanted to fit in nasty slurs about his parents. Harry tries to hold George back; it takes all the Chasers to hold back Fred. Then Malfoy suggests that he hasn’t realized how disgusting the Weasley home is because his mother’s house probably smelled the same, and Harry and George go after Malfoy, punching him until Madame Hooch brings the attack to a halt. She has them go to see Professor McGonagall, who is furious at their behavior despite the provocation. She plans to give them a week’s detention, but Umbridge shows up, insisting that they deserve a worse punishment. When McGonagall informs her that she has no power in this situation as she is their Head of House, Umbridge withdraws Educational Decree #25, which gives her power to give and/or adjust the punishments doled out to students in every case, and complete control over school activities. She bans Harry, George, and Fred (just for showing his desire to fight) from Quiddtich permanently, and takes their brooms. (She explains to Minerva that she got the idea for that decree when McGonagall went over her head to reinstate the Gryffindor Quidditch team.)

The team commiserates in the common room. Eventually everyone goes to bed, and Ron trudges up later, frozen and covered in snow. He apologizes to Harry to trying to play Quidditch and tells him he’s going to resign, which leaves Hermione to explain that he really shouldn’t since the Gryffindor team is down three players. Ron apologizes again for everything that happened, and Harry insists that none of this is his fault and he needs to stop blaming himself. Hermione does have some good news for them after looking out the window—Hagrid’s back at school.

Commentary

We get a mention of the hatstall that resulted from Hermione’s Sorting when she talks of the hat considering her for Ravenclaw, we also get a confirmation that she is working at N.E.W.T. levels in her fifth year. I wonder if you can skip years at Hogwarts? Maybe not, since they don’t seem to have much by way of further education, but you’d think Hermione would eventually get bored if she’s so ahead of the curve all the time.

I also adore this exchange between Harry and Hermione, when he points out that their Galleons are kind of like the Death Eater tattoos:

“Well…yes,” said Hermione quietly. “That is where I got the idea…but you’ll notice I decided to engrave the date on bits of metal rather than on our members’ skin….”

“Yeah…I prefer your way,” said Harry, grinning, as he slipped his Galleon into his pocket.

Aw, Hermione, you old softie, not carving things on people’s skin. So sweet.

I’m gonna say it; Rowling made a mistake in never having any Slytherin students join the opposition. And this is true for obvious reasons—seriously, not one of those kids ever had felt strongly enough about Voldemort’s methods to want to defect, regardless of family allegiances?—but also for the complex ones. Having a Slytherin in this group would have been amazing. Can you imagine that kid finding out and risking everything to hang out with the other three houses? Can you imagine the way that the kids from D.A. would have reacted, the incredible hostility and distrust? It would have been a great opportunity to tackle the reverse side of this system, to see how it put the Slytherin students at a disadvantage too. This is far more pronounced in the seventh book, and I’ll be coming back to it, but even here it sits wrong.

It’s so unsettling to read the bits where the Rowling talks about the difficulties scheduling around three separate Quidditch practices because there’s an aspect of denial to it. What Ernie Macmillan said before is correct; this is the most important thing they’ll likely ever learn at school, and being equally worried about Quidditch is pretty goofy by comparison. But they’re still kids. And like every war atmosphere, people tend to participate in the world like it’s business as usual until that becomes completely untenable.

They keep talking about how Snape overbooks the Quidditch pitch for his team to practice, and just… shouldn’t you not be able to do that? Like, there’s a rule that the teams can only practice twice or three times a week maybe? It seems like a good idea not just to prevent this kind of abuse by a Head of House, but also to make sure the kids are getting their studies in. Just saying.

Luna. Luna, you are perfect. Never change. Oh my Merlin, that lion hat. Actually, it’s fascinating to me that Luna’s presence in this book (and the others too, of course) always comes down to needing one of two things: a sideways-but-sharp perspective that adds real levity to a situation, or a reminder that we don’t have to take everything so seriously. She represents that need for deep thought and sober reflection (as a Ravenclaw and a dreamer), but also the ridiculousness that comes from being truly ones self, every bit as silly and strange that might be. Luna should be everyone’s Patronus. Luna would protect you from everything, especially anyone who tried to tamp down the essence of you. Luna is who we all would be if we stopped caring that people were watching. There’s really no higher praise.

It’s horrible watching Ron just plummet downhill all through this chapter. We get the brief reprieve of Hermione’s kiss on the cheek which leaves him swooning for a bit, but that’s pretty much it. And we’ve seen the way in which the school treats Quidditch like a professional sport, but allowing a sizable section of the school to openly bash a single student in the game should not be allowed. (Also, Lee Jordan should not be allowed to harass a female student about refusing to date him while announcing the match, but that should go without saying. Leave Angelina alone, Lee. I’m pretty sure she could take you.) There’s an entire song being sung about how pathetic and poor and moronic he is, and it’s pretty much everything I hate about sports culture with a dash of child humiliation on the side, and they should have been silenced, and they should have gotten House points deducted, and there should have been an investigation to find out who got everyone singing, and Draco should have been booted from the Quidditch team for it. And instead we get exactly the opposite.

On a lighter note, I should point out that as a teen, I had no idea that “bin” was Brit speak for trashcan, so I really didn’t understand why it would be insulting to suggest that someone had been born in a bin. Usually in America we specify by saying “trash bin,” so bin all by itself brought to mind a plastic tub you might store clothes or art supplies in. I dunno. It was a silly memory.

We see here that Fred is the more dangerous twin, requiring three people to hold him back, and holding a grudge against them for not allowing him to beat Malfoy to a pulp. And of course violence at school is wrong, but the way Draco is allowed to run his mouth is equally wrong. Rowling drives this point home over and over, particularly in the middle books; physical violence in schools is typically frowned upon while verbal abuse goes completely unchecked. The advice given constantly to students is all about not letting the bullies get to you, about being the bigger person, about water off a duck’s back and it’s a failure of the system. It is not protecting kids or toughening them up for later encounters. It’s teaching kids that bullying is largely accepted, so they have to get used to it, and washing their hands of the damage being inflicted. They can’t rise to it, they have to endure it. So while I know in my brain that what Harry and George do is bad, I have a hard time condemning their reactions.

On another lighter note, I’ve always loved that McGonagall refers to their choice to punch Draco as “Muggle dueling.”

Umbridge does her worst and we see that no one is safe from her reach, including the teachers. And that’s sickening enough without her dismantling the Quidditch team, though at this point it seems like such small beans next to her holding Hogwarts in the palm of her hand. It’s really just a symbolic punishment here, proof of how wrong everything’s gone.

Ron finally comes back and he’s full of apologies, and that’s honestly the worst part to me. That Ron feels like he has to make amends after being a subject of ridicule. For nothing more than being new to the game and hard on himself. For being poor. For being the last of six brothers who happens to have Draco Malfoy for a classmate. Harry is just as upset for him and everything else that got ruined in a day, and they both get commiserate together about it.

I feel like that’s one of the truest signs of friendship, being able to survive crappiness next to each other. Sitting in it and wallowing a bit and letting the other person wallow beside you. Friends.

 

Chapter 20—Hagrid’s Tale

Summary

Harry grabs the cloak and the kids dash down to Hagrid’s hut. He opens the door to them and Hermione screams; Hagrid’s clearly been beaten badly, covered and bruises and cuts, with a black eye and likely some broken ribs. When questioned, he insists that nothing happened at all. Hermione asks if he’s been to see giants, and he falters, but finally admits it when they tell him they worked it out on their own. Then they mention that Harry was attacked by Dementors, and Hagrid demands to know what’s been going on since he left, so Harry agrees to tell Hagrid about his summer if Hagrid will tell them what he’s been up to.

Hagrid tells them that he left with Madame Maxime after term last year and they traveled tike they were going on holiday because they had a ministry tail on them. Once they’d given him the slip, they kept going, trying to use as little magic as possible. They trekked through the mountains to find the giants, wary of potential Death Eaters in the area as they knew that Voldemort had plans to recruit them as well. They found them, a group of 70 or 80, all that was left. Hagrid explain that wizards killed some, and then many giants killed each other, which Dumbledore believes is the fault of wizards—they kept pushing the giants far away, forcing them to band together and live with one another when they used to have many separate tribes. Hagrid and Maxime approached the group in the morning with a gift from Dumbledore for the Gurg (the chief) Karkus, and said they’d come back the next day and talk. The next day they brought another present and spoke to the Gurg on Dumbledore’s behalf. Karkus didn’t speak English, but he had translators, and he was interested in hearing about Dumbledore’s perspective, since he’d heard that Albus had tried to prevent the killing of giants in Britain.

They agreed to come back the next day and talk more, but that night there was a great fight, and a new Gurg was installed—Golgomoth. He’d already chosen his friends, and they were the Death Eaters. Hagrid and Maxime reckoned they’d try to talk with the outlying giants who had been keen to listen to them before. They sought them out in the caves while the Death Eaters tracked them. they spoke to a few who seemed to like what they had to say, but they were killed by Golgomath’s lot almost immediately. Hagrid has hopes that some of them will remember the message they delivered and fight with them in end, but no giants are coming to their aid currently. Hermione asks if Hagrid got news of his mother, and he tells the trio that she was already dead. They try to get him to talk about what attacked him again (which Hagrid is still vehemently denying) when there’s knock at the door.

The trio dive under the cloak and tell Hagrid to hide their mugs. Umbridge comes in, asking why there are footprints going up to Hagrid’s door, and who he was talking to. Hagrid manages unsatisfactory answers, but they don’t give anything away. She asks where he’s been, and he claims a vacation. Umbridge asks if it was in the mountains and Harry knows that she’s aware of where Hagrid’s been. He claims the south of France all the same. She does a brief search of the kids, then tells Hagrid that she will be inspecting his class before leaving. Once she’s gone Hermione asks Hagrid what he’s planning on teaching, and he’s all aflutter about his new lessons. Hermione warns him to teach them about boring creatures so that Umbridge won’t have reason to write a bad report, but Hagrid doesn’t quite get the message. They trio leave his hut, Hermione vowing that she’ll write Hagrid lesson plans herself before Umbridge takes him away from them.

Commentary

Hagrid’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! *dance*

My favorite bit at the start of this chapter is the acknowledgment that Ron has finally grown tall enough that he has to crouch under the cloak, because you knew it was only a matter of time. It does makes me wonder what strange contortions the Marauders had to undergo in the event that all four (or even just three) of them needed to fit under it. Someone draw fan art of that puzzle box arrangement, where Peter is tucked under Remus, who is practically folded in half while Sirius’s hair gets in James’ face, and James’ elbows keep knocking Remus in the ribs and Peter in the back. (Remus is the tallest and the skinniest. If you don’t think so, you’re wrong, I have a height chart in my brain and I’m very weird about it.)

So, the dragon steak that Hagrid is using against his black eye slips from his hands when they mention his trip to the mountains and Rowling writes that it “slid squelchily” down his chest, and she gets all the House points for use of the word “squelchily” because it’s the best and I use it all the time.

Hagrid’s story isn’t exactly surprising so much as it is discouraging. After his absence through half the book, Rowling’s built up this hope that he’ll return with amazing news, and instead it’s basically what we’re fearing. The giants are joining Voldemort. Hagrid has been brutally injured. Of course, at this point we don’t know about Grawp, so that small victory is eluding us (and it won’t seem like much of a victory at first glance, having him around). It’s still the easiest thing in the world to know that Hagrid is hiding something, as we see from his insistence that his injuries were caused by nothing, and his inability to lie convincingly to Umbridge.

It occurred to me that with the small numbers Hagrid gives for the giants… there’s not really much chance that they’ll survive as a species, is there? We’re never given a good idea of what your average-sized tribe is, but we’re told that there used to be hundreds of tribes around the world. Tribes themselves must be typically smaller than the group Hagrid visits, since that’s part of the reason they’re always fighting. So, say, fifty giants in a tribe, spread out in their area? You figure they probably used to number in the tens of thousands, and that could sustain itself. Now there are less than a hundred. No matter how they align, and regardless of how they get treated for their role in the Second War, it’s doubtful that they were ever going to make it. They were basically done for after the First War. Which is devastating to think about; Voldemort essentially used them as canon fodder, and it worked like a charm.

Despite Hagrid’s inability to lie well, I do love that Umbridge can’t really get anything useful from him. Though I’m sort of surprised that she manages to keep it together around him so well, given her terror of “half-breeds.” We also get a mention of the Thestrals again, which Hagrid is planning to use for their lessons coming up.

And at the end of this chapter we have an example of how Hermione draws her lines in the sand at different points than Harry and Ron. She has a hard time defending Hagrid’s effectiveness as a teacher, being unwilling to lie about how helpful she finds his lessons. But as soon as there’s a threat that Umbridge might take him from them? Suddenly Hermione’s loyalty buzzer goes off. She won’t defend his methods, but Umbridge can’t have Hagrid. She can’t be allowed to affect the school any more than she already has. End of story.

Emily Asher-Perrin is going to walk home squelchily in water-logged shoes. Heh. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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